The magic weapon of Nike cushioning technology – Nike Air cushion technology

Nike Air technology is the magic weapon in Nike‘s cushioning technology matrix, which creates lightweight cushioning by injecting compressed air into a tough, elastic envelope. When the air cushion is impacted, it compresses the gas and then returns to its original shape and volume, ready for the next impact.


At present, Nike Air technology has been widely used in running shoes, basketball shoes, and casual sports shoes.


Nike Air Max Scorpion, image from hypebeast


Among the various shock absorption systems on the market, it can be regarded as the lightest in weight. It can not only be placed in different parts of the midsole according to the functional requirements of various sports, but also can be designed into different pressures according to needs.


Air Cushion Pressure: 5 lbs, 10 lbs, 20 lbs, 25 lbs. The composition of different pressure air chambers provides different special shock absorbers. For example, the low-pressure air chamber of 5 pounds greatly improves the comfort of sports, and the high-pressure air chamber of 25 pounds can enhance the stability of sports shoes.


1. History of Nike Air Air Cushion Technology


The technology of air cushion is collectively called Air, which was created in the late 1970s by Marion Franklin Rudy, a NASA engineer, and later obtained by NIKE founder Phil Nay. With the support of Phil Knight, that is, with the help of air cushion technology, NIKE has developed into a benchmark for high-performance sports shoes, and finally achieved today’s status as the dominant global sports brand.


Frank Rudy and the air cushion he designed, the picture comes from the Internet


Since the development of Nike Air air cushion technology, its changes can be understood from three lines: Air Sole, Air Max, and Zoom Air.


1. Air Sole

Air Sole, also known as built-in air cushion and hidden air cushion, is the first generation of Air cushion technology, which injects compressed air into a tough and elastic TPU envelope. In 1979, NIKE launched the first pair of shoes with Air Sole technology, the Nike Tailwind.


Nike Tailwind, the picture comes from Nike’s official website


2. Air Max

Air Max, also known as visible air cushion, is the most popular one of Air cushion technology, and it is also the flagship cushioning technology that achieves the world dominance of Nike sports brand. To put it simply, it is an upgraded version of Air Sole, but it is lighter, softer, and has a longer lifespan. It is mostly full palm or back palm.


In 1987, Tinker Hatfield created the Nike Air Max and launched the Air Max 1, which also became the first shoe to showcase visible Air cushioning.


Air Max 1, Nike official website


The development and changes of Air Max, the picture comes from the Internet


As you can see from the image above, one of the main differences between the air cushion models from 1987 to 1993 was that each version had more air than the last. Full-length visible air (Nike Air Max 97) has been around since 1997. By 2006, Nike had achieved its goal of a sneaker without an EVA foam midsole with the Air Max 360.


As a time-honored technology, Air Max is constantly seeking breakthroughs and innovations. In 2017, Air Vapormax was launched, and even the outsole was “eliminated”, and the air cushion was in direct contact with the ground. Since 2018, the Air cushion has become more and more eye-catching in styling, fashionable, radical and bold.


1991 Air Max 180, Nike official website


2006 Air Max 360, Nike official website


2017 Air vapormax, Nike official website


2018 Air Max 270, Nike official website


2019 Air Max 720, Nike official website


3. Zoom Air

Zoom Air is a high-elastic nylon fiber introduced into the air cushion structure, which is fixed on the upper and lower inner walls of the air cushion by hot pressing. Because the air pressure in the air cushion is higher than the outside, the air will expand outward, so the nylon fiber will be straightened into a tight state. , When the air cushion is stressed, the nylon fiber will be squeezed and bent, and as your unloading force, the nylon fiber will rebound to provide you with support.


The working principle of Zoom Air, the picture comes from Nike’s official website


According to Nike’s official information this year, Zoom Air technology began research and development in the 1980s. After more than 10 years, it was officially unveiled in 1995. At that time, it was first used in three products, namely the Nike Air Zoom Marauder. Football shoes, Nike Air Go LWP basketball shoes and Nike Air Zoom LWP running shoes.


Air Zoom application changes, the picture comes from Nike’s official website


The air cushion is from the earliest Air Sole to Air Zoom, and its improved route mainly completes further performance improvement or design for a certain part by changing the internal structure and shape, internal air pressure, material and area of the air cushion.


After understanding the development history, let’s take a look at the production process of the air cushion.


2. Air cushion production: detailed explanation of parison extrusion process


This is a unique visi tubing compression tube technology developed by Tetra Plastics. This special flat compression tube technology is called “parison extrusion” and is the basis for making Air-Sole air-cushion soles thicker, cleaner and more wear-resistant. necessary part. When Nike and Tetra used the process on the assembly line, it effectively improved production efficiency and reduced waste.


In fact, it’s the only Air-related technology that Nike has created and patented in partnership with Tetra Plastics.


The first step in Nike’s Air manufacturing process is the simultaneous feeding of two profiles into a thermoforming machine to create a thermoplastic polyurethane film (TPU).


Next, a series of profiles are heated one after another


When the profile reaches the desired temperature…


Clamp them together with the model.


Through the model, Nike’s Air-Sole unit is initially formed.


The initial model is then pruned.


Next the model is charged with nitrogen.


The inflated Air bag is ready for visual inspection.


The air packs will be shipped to Nike‘s footwear partner factories.


It’s not over yet! Over 90% of the remaining waste is recycled by Nike and remade into new membranes – the entire Air-making process all over again.


Later, Nike also developed a blow molding process for the production of Air cushions, which can directly produce air cushions through 3D models without relying on air pressure, and successfully applied to Nike Air Max 93, Air Max 95 and other follow-up shoes. on the paragraph.


Nike Air Max 93, the picture comes from the Internet


The above is about the development history of Air cushion technology, the magic weapon of Nike cushioning technology, and the compilation of production process data. It can be seen that the shoes developed by Nike based on Air cushion technology are constantly changing and emerging one after another, not only in terms of styles, but also The core technology is also continuously upgraded. Therefore, the domestic shoe material industry must take the road of innovation and development, and it must be inseparable from the deep cultivation of core technologies.


References:

How is NIKE AIR made? Nike official website

The story of visible air, the 30-year development history of Nike air cushion technology AIR MAX, Aibang Polymer

Evolution of Nike Air Max Visible Air, Nike Official Website


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